Saturday, April 12, 2008
Missing the point
The controversy of the shape issue of Vogue with LeBron and Gisele is old news but I think that most people who commented on it missed the real issue at hand with fashion magazines. This issue wasn't the only one that perpetuated a stereotype- all covers perpetuate stereotypes- whether it be about race, body type and how women are represented.
The Vogue cover came under fire because some people criticized it as perpetuating the stereotype of the black man as a wild, savage beast who wants to steal the white woman. Comparisons to King Kong arose. It's easy to see why people came to these conclusions. Just look at LeBron's face: He looks menacing and is even crouched kind of like a monkey would (but hey, one could argue that humans are closely related to monkeys so it's not unnatural- and the menacing look? Well that could be LeBron's game face.)
To say that Gisele is the white-woman-in-distress would be pushing it. She looks like she just won back that Victoria's Secret contract.
The good thing about this controversy is that it makes us look at the way fashion magazines depict people (mostly women) on their covers.
Women of different races are categorized into stereotypes.
White women are always slim with no discernible curves (because white women don't have hips, tits or ass), straight hair and very wholesome and non-threatening. Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston make good cover choices.
Whenever a rare black woman makes the cover of a fashion magazine (Halle Berry is a safe choice) they are always light-skinned. You never see a dark-skinned black woman on a cover. Hair is also straight, curves are shown a bit more than a white woman. Their photos are usually set up in a exotic location and the woman is usually pictured as wild and exotic- not fully human.
Latinas (magazines like to generalize) get to "flaunt their curves." Because all latinas have big booties like Jennifer Lopez. They, like black women, are also made-up to look exotic- usually with dark eye-makeup and wet, glossy lips. Again, they stereotype Latin-American women to look as if they are animals.
Asian women, who by the way are rarely shown in Western fashion magazines, are always petite with big eyes so that they resemble dolls- they are shown as little girls, not functioning adult women.
So instead of worrying about whether LeBron looks like a fictional ape, we should be pressing Vogue et al. to stop stereotyping and diminishing women.